Posts Tagged ‘2016 election’

FBI investigation into Trump campaign handled in an “abnormal fashion” and was rife with “political bias” — former top FBI lawyer tells congressional investigators

October 4, 2018

James Baker, a former top FBI lawyer, told congressional investigators on Wednesday that the Russia probe was handled in an “abnormal fashion” and was rife with “political bias” according to Fox News, citing two Republican lawmakers present for the closed-door deposition.

“Some of the things that were shared were explosive in nature,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Fox News. “This witness confirmed that things were done in an abnormal fashion. That’s extremely troubling.”

Meadows claimed the “abnormal” handling of the probe into alleged coordination between Russian officials and the Trump presidential campaign was “a reflection of inherent bias that seems to be evident in certain circles.” The FBI agent who opened the Russia case, Peter Strzok, FBI lawyer Lisa Page and others sent politically charged texts, and have since left the bureau. –Fox News

Baker, who worked closely with former FBI Director James Comey, left the bureau earlier this year.

Lawmakers did not provide any specifics about the interview, citing a confidentiality agreement signed with Baker and his attorneys, however they said that he was cooperative and forthcoming about the beginnings of the Russia probe in 2016, as well as the FISA surveillance warrant application to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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“During the time that the FBI was putting — that DOJ and FBI were putting together the FISA (surveillance warrant) during the time prior to the election — there was another source giving information directly to the FBI, which we found the source to be pretty explosive,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Meadows and Jordan would not elaborate on the source, or answer questions about whether the source was a reporter. They did stress that the source who provided information to the FBI’s Russia case was not previously known to congressional investigators. –Fox News

According to Fox, Baker “is at the heart of surveillance abuse allegations, and his deposition lays the groundwork for next week’s planned closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.”

As the FBI’s top lawyer, baker helped secure the FISA warrant on Page, along with three subsequent renewals.

Rosenstein is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill on October 11 for a closed-door interview, according to Republican House sources, “not a briefing to leadership,” and comes on the heels of a New York Times report that said Rosenstein had discussed secretly recording President Trump and removing him from office using the 25th Amendment.

Rosenstein and Trump pushed off a scheduled meeting into limbo amid speculation of his impending firing.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday the meeting remains in limbo.

“If there’s a meeting, we’ll let you know,” she said. “But at this point, they continue to work together and both show up every day and do their jobs.” –Fox News

A DOJ official told Fox that Rosenstein agreed to meet with House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), however no other details were made available.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-10-03/top-fbi-lawyer-flips-russia-probe-was-handled-abnormal-fashion-and-rife-political

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Russia-Linked Money-Laundering Probe Looks at $150 Billion in Transactions — Banks “institutionalized money laundering”

September 8, 2018

Transactions uncovered at Danske’s Estonian branch highlight the growing concern about illicit money flows from the former Soviet Union

A Danske Bank building in Copenhagen. The lender has been criticized by its regulator for lax oversight of illicit money flows.
A Danske Bank building in Copenhagen. The lender has been criticized by its regulator for lax oversight of illicit money flows. PHOTO: THOMAS LEKFELDT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Denmark’s largest bank is investigating whether companies with ties to Russia used it to launder money, examining $150 billion in transactions that flowed through a tiny branch in Estonia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The $150 billion figure, covering a period between 2007 and 2015, has been presented to the bank’s board of directors and would equal to more than a year’s worth of the corporate profits for the entire country of Russia at the time. The flows would have stayed in the branch for only a short time before leaving Estonia, according to a person familiar with the investigation, so they might not show up in deposit statistics, which reflect the balance at the end of month and not from day to day.

Danske Bank DNKEY -5.21% investigators haven’t determined if the entire amount should be deemed suspicious. But such a large flow of money suggests that roughly $8 billion of suspected money-laundering transactions previously reported by a Danish newspaper could grow higher.

“Any conclusions should be drawn on the basis of verified facts and not fragmented pieces of information taken out of context,” Danske Bank Chairman Ole Andersen said in a statement. “As we have previously communicated, it is clear that the issues related to the portfolio were bigger than we had previously anticipated.” The bank says the results of its probe are being finalized.

Shares in the bank fell as much as 7% on Friday after The Wall Street Journal reported on the size of the amounts involved.

The U.S. has paid close attention to the ways Russia’s wealthy have taken money out of the country, according to U.S. officials, especially since sanctions imposed during the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Sanctions were strengthened following determinations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and again earlier this year.

Washington has watched illicit money flows channeled through European-regulated banks to the West. In February, the Treasury Department declared Latvia’s ABLV bank an “institutionalized money laundering” operation where weapons dealers and corrupt politicians from former Soviet Union countries sent their money into Europe. ABLV denied knowingly laundering money and later collapsed.

In 2017, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay nearly $630 million to settle investigations by U.K. and New York regulators into Russian equity trades that transferred $10 billion out of that country in violation of anti-money-laundering laws.

Since last year, NATO has positioned troops in three former Soviet Union republics—Estonia and its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, all bordering Russia. In return, the U.S. has asked those governments to crack down on illicit Russian money flowing into the West through their banks, according to U.S. officials. That understanding was hammered out after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Danske’s Estonian branch is the subject of criminal investigations in Denmark and Estonia, prosecutors in the countries said. The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority reprimanded the bank for weak controls in May and ordered Danske to hold about $800 million more in capital, but didn’t issue a fine.

Shell companies, including many registered in the U.K., controlled most of the accounts in question, and many of the accounts had links to people in Russia and former Soviet Union countries, people familiar with the matter said. The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority isn’t probing the bank, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Danske Bank’s Estonian office in Tallinn.
Danske Bank’s Estonian office in Tallinn. PHOTO:INTS KALNINS/REUTERS
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Estonia, a former Soviet Republic of 1.3 million people, became a European Union member in 2004 and joined the euro in 2011. Like its Baltic neighbor Latvia, it quickly became a way station for funds from other former Soviet states. The $150 billion figure is a substantial sum considering Estonia’s entire banking system reports total deposits of €17 billion ($19 billion).

At Danske, clients would typically move funds among several companies with accounts at its Estonia branch before transferring the money to accounts in banks in Turkey, Hong Kong, Latvia, the U.K. and other countries, one of the people familiar with the investigation said.

HIDING RUSSIAN MONEY WAS EASY. QUITTING WAS HARDER.

Benedict Worsley, a self-created British “fixer,” would do just about anything for his high-flying Russian clients—until the international financial network he built came crashing down. Read More

Danske’s management dragged its feet dealing with the issue, according to a report filed by Danish regulators this year, ignoring complaints from internal whistleblowers and correspondent banks, which made international payments and transfers on its behalf.

Estonian regulators complained to Danish counterparts as early as 2012 and compiled a 200-page report in 2014 detailing the local branch’s extensive failures to ask even basic questions about the source of its clients’ income.

“There were many red flags,” said Kilvar Kessler, chairman of the management board of Estonia’s banking supervisor, the Finantsinspektsioon.

It was only after another bank refused to deal with Danske’s Estonian unit that the bank shut down “nonresident” Estonian accounts in 2015.

Danske Chief Executive Thomas Borgen was in charge of international banking—including in Estonia—during part of the period under investigation. He was promoted to run the bank in 2013. He declined to comment.

Denmark’s Berlingske newspaper earlier reported around $8 billion of illicit money went through the Estonian branch. The Financial Times reported this month that some $30 billion flowed through the Estonian branch in the year 2013. In both instances, Danske said it needed time to look into the reports.

Danske’s investigation is overseen by the bank’s legal counsel and assisted by forensic accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and consultants at Ernst & Young LLP. Both firms didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Promontory Financial Group, a unit of International Business Machines Corp. , and Palantir Technologies Inc. are also helping in the probe and declined to comment.

Such large sums were able to slip by European regulators’ watch for years largely because of a series of design flaws in the Continent’s anti-money-laundering systems, said James Oates, the founder of Cicero Capital, a financial adviser in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

“Everybody was looking the other way because they thought they were covered, and it turns out they weren’t,” said Mr. Oates.

Danske Bank’s Estonia branch isn’t directly supervised by the European Central Bank, which in any case lacks the authority to investigate money-laundering cases. Estonian authorities, meanwhile, say that because Danske operated as a branch—and not a subsidiary with a legal entity based in Estonia—they had limited authority and incomplete information.

Parent bank Danske said in a September 2017 statement that the Estonia branch “operated very much as an independent unit, with its own systems, procedures and culture regarding anti-money-laundering measures.”

Write to Bradley Hope at bradley.hope@wsj.com, Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com and Patricia Kowsmann at patricia.kowsmann@wsj.com

Appeared in the September 8, 2018, print edition as ‘Bank Probes Russia-Linked Flows.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/danske-bank-money-laundering-probe-involves-150-billion-of-transactions-1536317086

Donald Trump Says Facebook, Google, Other Social Media Interfering in 2018 Elections — In 2016 “they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side”

September 5, 2018

President Donald Trump accused social media companies of interfering in both the 2016 and 2018 presidential elections, in an exclusive Oval Office interview with The Daily Caller.

“I think they already have,” Trump said of social media companies interference in the 2018 presidential election. The president pivoted to 2016 saying “I mean the true interference in the last election was that — if you look at all, virtually all of those companies are super liberal companies in favor of Hillary Clinton.”

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“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter and I’m good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side,” Trump continued.

He cautioned companies not to maintain a bias because it could one day be used against political causes that they prefer.

Trump has railed against social media and tech companies in recent days, particularly Google. He has accused the company of censoring conservative news but has brushed off regulation, saying he just wants fairness. (RELATED: Trump Just Wants ‘Fairness, Not Regulation’ For Google, Facebook, Twitter)

“I think that Google and Facebook and Twitter, I think they treat conservatives and Republicans very unfairly. I could tell you that I have personal experience,” he recently said publicly.

Google has denied any alleged bias in its search results saying its “search” function is not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” adding, “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.” (RELATED: The Kingmaker: Trump Reveals How He Picks Who To Endorse)

https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/05/trump-social-media-interference-election/

Democrats wage a losing battle over Kavanaugh — “Resembled an episode of Jerry Springer”

September 5, 2018

“Sometimes a superstar is just a superstar.” Judge Kavanaugh is a man of “dignity, intelligence, empathy and integrity.”

Many media descriptions of Tuesday’s hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court called the event “a circus.” It is a reasonable choice of words, given that the first portion resembled an episode of Jerry Springer, minus the chair throwing.

There was real tension as raucous audience members took turns trying to drown out the Senate Judiciary Committee with angry shouts and screams. It’s a safe guess that none was shrieking in support of the nominee, who sat stoically through the rain of insults, though his young daughters reportedly were escorted out to spare them the ­ordeal.

By Michael Goodwin
Commentary

Judge Kavanaugh listened to opening statements from Senators on the Judiciary Committee. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

The tension peaked as Democrats on the panel rolled out their own form of disruption, a coordinated attack on the hearing itself. They even interrupted each other to demand a recess so they could vote on whether to go forward.

They, too, were angry as they claimed to want more time to read more documents about Kavanaugh’s career, thousands of which had just been released Monday night. Yet their professed desire to be diligent about their duties seemed less than honest given that all of them already had vowed to oppose him, including three considering a presidential run in 2020.

One of the three, Kamala Harris of California, interrupted Chairman Chuck Grassley before he could finish a single opening sentence of welcome. That makes her the frontrunner!

Because the actual hearing eventually got underway and Republicans look to have the votes for confirmation, it’s easy to dismiss the theatrical hijacking as nothing more than politics as usual. But that would be a mistake because, with apologies to Shakespeare, in this case the sound and fury signify something.

It marked the moment when there was no longer a meaningful difference between the aim of elected Democrats and their unelected supporters in the audience. They were united in their determination to shut down the process because they both believe that if they can’t win, the game should be canceled.

The unholy marriage of cry­babies was blessed by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who used his turn in the spotlight to praise the rude shouters, about 20 of whom were arrested by Capitol Police. He called them “the voice of democracy,” said it was great that “people can stand up and speak” and declared that the loud interruptions “represent what we are about in this democracy.”

“We” is the operative word because his side wasn’t the target. Durbin went on to confess that Kavanaugh wasn’t really the ­issue, either.

Pointing at Kavanaugh, he said, “You are the nominee of President Donald John Trump . . . You are his man. You’re the person he wants on the ­Supreme Court.”

Well, yeah, that’s the way the system works. The winner gets to nominate his choices to fill Supreme Court vacancies. It’s been like that since George Washington.

But 20 months into Trump’s presidency, Dems, in the Senate and out on the streets, still are not ready to accept his legitimacy.

As GOP Sen. Ted Cruz noted later, the whole show is part of a relitigation of the 2016 election. The half the country that hates Trump simply can’t abide the fact that he sits in the office that Hillary Clinton was entitled to.

They’re not pretending. They really believe that Trump shouldn’t be able to put a new nominee on the court.

No less than Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, ­recently invoked the guilty plea of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a reason why Trump shouldn’t have the full authority of his office.

“It is unseemly for the president of the United States to be picking a Supreme Court Justice who could soon be, effectively, a juror in a case involving the president himself,” he said on the Senate floor two weeks ago.

There is also the fact that the Kavanaugh nomination is extra galling because it would cement a solid majority of constitutional conservatives on the court, perhaps for decades. Trump’s first pick, Neil Gorsuch, was just as conservative but less of a flashpoint because he was replacing the late ­Antonin Scalia, perhaps the most brilliant conservative ­justice ever.

But Kavanaugh would succeed the retiring Anthony Kennedy, who became the swing vote and often sided with the four liberal justices to make a majority.

Yet, as Cruz also noted, the Supreme Court was a huge campaign issue, with both Clinton and Trump talking frequently about the kind of justices they would nominate, including in the debates. And it couldn’t have been lost on Democrats that controlling the Senate would be all important no matter who won the presidency.

So Durbin is dead wrong — the “voice of democracy” is not represented by adult snowflakes shouting at a public hearing to try to silence speech they don’t like. Nor is it represented by the attempts at character ­assassination he and some of his colleagues resorted to when they got the microphone.

That honor goes to voters, a fact their candidates should have paid more attention to.

Later in the day, there were more edifying moments. One of three people chosen to formally introduce Kavanaugh was a woman named Lisa Blatt, a lawyer who has appeared before the Supreme Court 35 times.

She identified herself as a liberal feminist who supported Hillary Clinton, but said she has no doubts that Kavanaugh will be a superb justice. Blatt echoed a piece she wrote for Politico last month, where she said, “Sometimes a superstar is just a superstar,” and hailed ­Kavanaugh’s “dignity, intelligence, empathy and integrity.”

Another rare moment of uplift came with a rapid-fire speech by Sen. Ben Sasse, a ­Nebraska Republican. He ­decried the modern trend that relegates the Supremes into red and blue ­justices.

The problem, he said, is that the country now sees the court as a super legislature because Congress, through regulations, punts too much of its lawmaking responsibility to an unaccountable bureaucracy.

“That’s why the Supreme Court is increasingly a substitute political battleground,” Sasse said. “It is not healthy, but it is what happens and it’s something that our founders wouldn’t be able to make any sense of.”

The solution, he said, is to ­restore the proper separation of powers among the three branches. It was, at heart, a civics lesson straight out of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Naturally, Sasse was ignored. Maybe there will be time for that kind of thing after the next election.

https://nypost.com/2018/09/04/democrats-wage-a-losing-battle-over-kavanaugh/

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Congress waits, waits, waits for Sally Yates documents

September 3, 2018

Obama appointee Sally Yates was acting attorney general under President Trump for just 10 days — from January 20, 2017 until January 30, 2017 — but by any measure they were consequential days. Even now, two issues from Yates’ brief tenure are still of interest to congressional investigators. One was the series of events that led Yates, in charge of the Justice Department, to reject the president’s executive order temporarily suspending the admittance into the United States of people from some Muslim nations. The second is Yate’s role in the FBI’s questioning, apparently on dubious premises, the president’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, four days into the new administration — questioning that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea in the Trump-Russia investigation.

Both are matters of great public significance and interest — and on both, the Justice Department is refusing to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee access to documents from Yates’ time in office.

On Feb. 23, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for “all emails to, from, copying, or blind-copying Ms. Yates from Jan. 20, 2017, through Jan. 31, 2017.” Grassley also asked for all of Yates’ other correspondence from that period, plus records of her calls and meetings.

By Byron York
Commentary

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Sally Yates was acting attorney general under President Trump for just 10 days. Credit J. David Ake

The reason Grassley cited — his committee has direct oversight authority over the Justice Department — was that Yates’ order to the Justice Department not to defend the president’s executive order cost the administration precious time as it prepared to fight the inevitable legal challenges. The Department did not have its facts together when a federal judge in Washington State demanded them, setting the stage for the judge to issue a temporary restraining order.

“It looks like Ms. Yates’ action may have substantially harmed the Justice Department’s initial ability to defend the executive order,” Grassley wrote. “It is important to determine the extent to which Ms. Yates’ actions may have sabotaged the government’s defense in that litigation.”

“Even commentators who took issue with the executive order believed her directive to stop the entire Justice Department from defending the order in the middle of frenetic ongoing litigation was improper,” Grassley added.

It is hard to imagine a matter of more public importance than that. But the executive order question was not the only issue involving Yates that fell under Grassley’s oversight.

Also covered by the committee’s request was any documentation of Yates’ role in the Flynn case. A number of press accounts at the time the FBI interviewed Flynn cited an official “familiar with [Yates’] thinking” who said she was concerned that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act by talking to Russia’s then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Of course, many scholars view the Logan Act as a dead letter, and it is a fact that no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the Logan Act at any time in its 200-year history. For Yates to use that particular law as a pretense for the FBI to interview Flynn was certainly a questionable decision — and a decision that Congress might reasonably want to review.

Grassley’s request, covering all of Yates’ communications, electronic and otherwise, would likely have given Congress some insight into Yates’ thinking on the Logan Act and Flynn, as well as, of course, on the travel executive order. All were legitimate areas of congressional oversight. Yet the Justice Department turned the senator down flat.

“These records would implicate important executive branch confidentiality interests, including deliberations about the many sensitive law enforcement, national security, and policy matters that require an Attorney General’s attention,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer wrote to Grassley in May of last year. Turning such records over to Congress would “substantially inhibit the robust exchange of views and advice” inside the Justice Department, Ramer said. It would also, he argued, “set an unacceptable precedent” of Congress mucking around in executive branch emails any time lawmakers “question an Attorney General’s intent or motivation for a decision.”

Of course, it had been done before. In November 2014, some of then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s emails were turned over to Congress as part of its Fast & Furious investigation. And in December of last year the Justice Department turned over at least some of Yates’ own emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a private outside party, Judicial Watch. For example, on January 30, 2017, Yates forwarded to someone — name redacted — an email from Andrew Weissmann, a top Justice Department official who later joined special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. With the subject line, “I am so proud,” Weissmann wrote ‘And in awe. Thank you so much,” for Yates’ decision to block the president’s executive order.

But now, the Justice Department refuses to hand over any of Yates’ emails to the Senate committee with direct oversight authority. If the Department were serious about complying, it might ask for some limits on what has to be produced, and it’s likely the Senate would have gone along, or at least negotiated about what should be turned over. But the Department just gave a flat no.

Grassley, unhappy, moved on. But he reminded the Justice Department that actions like Yates’, on the executive order and other matters, have real consequences. “Having political appointees from a prior administration stay on during the early days of a new administration encourages stable transitions between administrations while new appointees are in the confirmation process,” Grassley wrote. “When a holdover appointee uses that position to sabotage the incoming administration over policy differences, future administrations will be more likely to fire previous political appointees on day one, potentially leading to more dangerously rocky transitions. These stunts have consequences.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/congress-waits-waits-waits-for-sally-yates-documents

Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread to Trump.

September 2, 2018

In the estimation of American officials, Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, has faced credible accusations of extortion, bribery and even murder.

They also thought he might make a good source.

Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and former officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska.

Justice Department officials tried to turn the oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska into an informant as they sought information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

In one dramatic encounter, F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced and uninvited at a home Mr. Deripaska maintains in New York and pressed him on whether Paul Manafort, a former business partner of his who went on to become chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign, had served as a link between the campaign and the Kremlin.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said.

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg
The New York Times

Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier of purported links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes. And in Mr. Deripaska’s case, he told the American investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Russian organized crime and Kremlin collusion in the campaign, a person familiar with the exchanges said. The person added that Mr. Deripaska even notified the Kremlin about the American efforts to cultivate him.

But the fallout from the efforts is now rippling through American politics and has helped fuel Mr. Trump’s campaign to discredit the investigation into whether he coordinated with Russia in its interference in the election.

The contacts between Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were detailed in emails and notes from Mr. Ohr that the Justice Department turned over to Republicans in Congress earlier this year. A number of journalists, including some at conservative news outlets, have reported on elementsof those contacts but not on the broader outreach program to the oligarchs or key aspects of the interactions between Mr. Ohr, Mr. Steele and Mr. Deripaska.

The revelation that Mr. Ohr engaged with Mr. Steele has provided the president’s allies with fresh fodder to attack the investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, casting it as part of a vast, long-running conspiracy by a “deep state” bent on undermining Mr. Trump. In their telling, Mr. Ohr and his wife — who worked as a contractor at the same research firm that produced the dossier — are villainous central players in a cabal out to destroy the president.

Mr. Trump himself has seized on the reports, threatening to pull Mr. Ohr’s security clearance and claiming that his family “received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier.”

While Mr. Steele did discuss the research that resulted in the dossier with Mr. Ohr during the final months of the campaign, current and former officials said that Mr. Deripaska was the subject of many of the contacts between the two men between 2014 and 2016.

A timeline that Mr. Ohr hand-wrote of all his contacts with Mr. Steele was among the leaked documents cited by the president and his allies as evidence of an anti-Trump plot.

The contacts between Mr. Steele and Mr. Ohr started before Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate and continued through much of the campaign.

Mr. Deripaska’s contacts with the F.B.I. took place in September 2015 and the same month a year later. The latter meeting came two months after the F.B.I. began investigating Russian interference in the election and a month after Mr. Manafort left the Trump campaign amid reports about his work for Russia-aligned political parties in Ukraine.

The outreach to Mr. Deripaska, who is so close to the Russian president that he has been called “Putin’s oligarch,” was not as much of a long shot as it might have appeared.

He had worked with the United States government in the past, including on a thwarted effort to rescue an F.B.I. agent captured in Iran, on which he reportedly spent as much as $25 million of his own money. And he had incentive to cooperate again in the run-up to the 2016 election, as he tried to win permission to travel more easily to the United States, where he has long sought more freedom to do business and greater acceptance as a global power broker.

Mr. Steele sought to aid the effort to engage Mr. Deripaska, and he noted in an email to Mr. Ohr in February 2016 that the Russian had received a visa to travel to the United States. In the email, Mr. Steele said his company had compiled and circulated “sensitive” research suggesting that Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs were under pressure from the Kremlin to toe the Russian government line, leading Mr. Steele to conclude that Mr. Deripaska was not the “tool” of Mr. Putin alleged by the United States government.

The timeline sketched out by Mr. Ohr shows contacts stretching back to when Mr. Ohr first met Mr. Steele in 2007. It also shows what officials said was the first date on which the two discussed cultivating Mr. Deripaska: a meeting in Washington on Nov. 21, 2014, roughly seven months before Mr. Trump announced that he was running for president.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an initiative that remains classified. Most expressed deep discomfort, saying they feared that in revealing the attempts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs they were undermining American national security and strengthening the grip that Mr. Putin holds over those who surround him.

But they also said they did not want Mr. Trump and his allies to use the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation. That, too, they said they feared, would damage American security.

The program was led by the F.B.I. Mr. Ohr, who had long worked on combating Russian organized crime, was one of the Justice Department officials involved.

Mr. Steele served as an intermediary between the Americans and the Russian oligarchs they were seeking to cultivate. He had first met Mr. Ohr years earlier while still serving at MI6, Britain’s foreign spy agency, where he oversaw Russia operations. After retiring, he opened a business intelligence firm, and had tracked Russian organized crime and business interests for private clients, including one of Mr. Deripaska’s lawyers.

To facilitate meetings, the F.B.I. pushed the State Department to allow Mr. Deripaska to travel to New York on a Russian diplomatic passport as part of a Russian government delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The State Department had previously rejected some of Mr. Deripaska’s efforts to secure visas to enter the United States — even as part of prior diplomatic delegations — but it approved diplomatic visa requests in 2015 and 2016.

One of the players in the effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska was Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump over his ties to the former British spy Christopher Steele. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Mr. Steele helped set up a meeting between the Russian and American officials during the 2015 trip. Mr. Ohr attended the meeting, during which the Americans pressed Mr. Deripaska on the connections between Russian organized crime and Mr. Putin’s government, as well as other issues, according to a person familiar with the events. The person said that Mr. Deripaska told the Americans that their theories were off base and did not reflect how things worked in Russia.

Mr. Deripaska would not agree to a second meeting. But one took place the next year, in September 2016, when F.B.I. agents showed up unannounced at his door in New York. By then, they were already investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and they pressed Mr. Deripaska about whether his former business partner, Mr. Manafort, had served as a link to the Kremlin during his time as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.

It was not only the F.B.I. that was concerned about Russian interference in the final months of the campaign. American spy agencies were sounding an alarm after months of intelligence reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russians, and Moscow’s hacking of Democratic Party emails. (American intelligence agencies would later conclude that the interference was real and that Russia had acted to boost Mr. Trump’s candidacy.)

There was also a growing debate at the highest levels of the Obama administration about how to respond without being seen as trying ttip the presidential election toward Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Deripaska, though, told the F.B.I. agents that while he had no love for Mr. Manafort, with whom he was in a bitter business dispute, he found their theories about his role on the campaign “preposterous.” He also disputed that there were any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the person familiar with the exchange.

The Justice Department’s efforts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appear to have fizzled soon after, amid worsening relations between the United States and Russia.

This past April, the Treasury Department imposed potentially crippling sanctions against Mr. Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum company, saying he had profited from the “malign activities” of Russia around the world. In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Mr. Deripaska had been accused of extortion, racketeering, bribery, links to organized crime and even ordering the murder of a businessman.

Mr. Deripaska has denied the allegations, and his allies contend that the sanctions are punishment for refusing to play ball with the Americans.

Yet just as it was becoming clear that Mr. Deripaska would provide little help to the Americans, Mr. Steele was talking to Mr. Ohr about an entirely new issue: the dossier.

In summer 2016, Mr. Steele first told Mr. Ohr about the research that would eventually come to make up the dossier. Over a breakfast in Washington, Mr. Steele said he believed that Russian intelligence had Mr. Trump “over a barrel,” according to a person familiar with the discussion. But the person said that it was more of a friendly heads-up, and that Mr. Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent in a bid to get his work to investigators.

The research by that point was being funded by the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, and Mr. Steele believed that what he had found was damning enough that he needed to get it to American law enforcement.

F.B.I. agents would later meet with Mr. Steele to discuss his work. But former senior officials from the bureau and the Justice Department have said that the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia was well underway by the time they got the dossier.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the fact that Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were in touch about elements of the dossier to attack the investigation into Russian election interference as a “rigged witch hunt.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have cast Mr. Steele’s research — and the serious consideration it was given by Mr. Ohr and the F.B.I. — as part of a plot by rogue officials and Mrs. Clinton’s allies to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign and his presidency.

The role of Mr. Deripaska has gotten less attention, but it similarly offers fodder for the theory being advanced by the president’s defenders.

Among the documents produced to Congress by the Justice Department is an undated — and previously unreported — note handwritten by Mr. Ohr indicating that Mr. Deripaska and one of his London-based lawyers, Paul Hauser, were “almost ready to talk” to American government officials regarding the money that “Manafort stole.”

Even after the concerted effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appeared to have broken down, and as he was emerging as a subject of increasing interest in inquiries into ties between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russia, both sides continued sporadic outreach.

Last year, Mr. Ohr asked someone who communicated with Mr. Deripaska to urge the oligarch to “give up Manafort,” according to a person familiar with the exchange. And Mr. Deripaska sought to engage with Congress.

The oligarch took out newspaper advertisements in the United States last year volunteering to testify in any congressional hearings examining his work with Mr. Manafort. The ads were in response to an Associated Press report that Mr. Manafort had secretly worked for Mr. Deripaska on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” in the mid-2000s.

Mr. Deripaska deplored that assertion as “malicious” and a “lie,” and subsequently sued The A.P. for libel, though he later dropped his appeal of a judge’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit without receiving a settlement or payment.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.”

“I told them that he would be willing to talk about Manafort,” Mr. Waldman added.

Mr. Waldman said he did not hear back from the committee’s staff members, but he contends that they played a role in pushing the claim that the talks over Mr. Deripaska’s potential testimony had fallen apart because he demanded immunity.

“We specifically told them that we did not want immunity,” Mr. Waldman said. “Clearly, they did not want him to testify. What other conclusion could you possibly draw?”

Follow Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg on Twitter: @kenvogel and @AllMattNYT

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Agents Tried To Turn Oligarch Into an Informer.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/us/politics/deripaska-ohr-steele-fbi.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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Russian Oligarch And Putin Pal Admits To Collusion, Secret Meetings, with Obama Administration

September 2, 2018

Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, has gone on record with The Hill‘s John Solomon – admitting to colluding with Americans leading up to the 2016 US election, except it might not be what you’re thinking.

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Deripaska, rumored to be Donald Trump’s “back channel” to Putin via the Russian’s former association with Paul Manafort, says he “colluded” with the US Governmentbetween 2009 and 2016.

In 2009, when Robert Mueller was running the FBI, the agency asked Deripaska to spend $25 million of his own money to bankroll an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent – Robert Levinson, who was kidnapped in 2007 while working on a 2007 CIA contract in Iran. This in and of itself is more than a bit strange.

Deripaska agreed, however the Obama State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton, scuttled a last-minute deal with Iran before Levinson could be released. He hasn’t been heard from since.

FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland. -The Hill

In other words – Trump’s alleged “back channel” to Putin was in fact an FBI asset who spent $25 million helping Obama’s “scandal free” administration find a kidnapped agent, Deripaska’s admitted.

 

Steele, Ohr and the 2016 US Election

As the New York Times frames it, distancing Deripaska from the FBI (no mention of the $25 million rescue effort, for example), the Russian aluminum magnate was just one of several Putin-linked Oligarchs the FBI tried to flip.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said. –NYT

Central to the recruiting effort were two central players in the Trump-Russia investigation; twice-demoted DOJ #4 officialBruce Ohr and Christopher Steele – the author of the largely unverified “Steele Dossier.”

Steele, a longtime associate of Ohr’s, worked for Deripaska beginning in 2012 researching a business rival – work which would evolve to the point where the former British spy was interfacing with the Obama administration on his behalf – resulting in Deripaska regaining entry into the United States, where he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017.

The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations…

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show. –The Hill

Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling.

In a September 2016 meeting, Deripaska told FBI agents that it was “preposterous” that Paul Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 election. This, despite the fact that Deripaska and Manafort’s business relationship “ended in lawsuits, per The Hill – and the Russian would have every reason to throw Manafort under the bus if he wanted some revenge on his old associate.

So the FBI and DOJ secretly collaborated with Trump’s alleged backchannel over a seven-year period, starting with Levinson, then on Deripaska’s Visa, and finally regarding whether Paul Manafort was an intermediary to Putin. Deripaska vehemently denies the assertion, and even took out newspaper advertisements in the US last year volunteering to testify to Congress, refuting an AP report that he and Manafort secretly worked on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” a decade ago.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.” –NYT

In short, Deripaska wants it known that he worked with the FBI and DOJ, and that he had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election. –The Hill

Interestingly, Steele’s dossier which was partially funded by the Clinton campaign, relied on senior Kremlin officials.

It would be most helpful if the Department of Justice could please investigate and then prosecute themselves and/or members of the previous administration, so that journalists like John Solomon, Sara Carter, Luke Rosiak, Chuck Ross and others don’t have to continue to break stories that are seemingly ignored by all but a handful of Congressional investigators.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-01/russian-oligarch-and-putin-pal-admits-collusion-secret-meetings

Chuck Todd of NBC on Robert Mueller: Big Announcement Possible on Friday — “If there was no collusion, He would have already ended this investigation”

August 31, 2018

Chuck Todd of NBC on Robert Mueller: “Not a single person that has known him, been with him, worked with him, wouldn’t say that he would have ended this investigation if there was no collusion. He would have already ended this investigation.”

Image result for Chuck Todd, photos

“We can’t tell that, though, until he tells us,” Republican strategist Brad Todd said.

The panel went on to debate whether Mueller can make any major announcements in the investigation between Labor Day and the midterm elections. Major developments after Labor Day could be seen as interference in elections (cc: James Comey.)

“I think he knows, more than anything, he keeps quiet between Labor Day and Election Day,” Chuck Todd said.

“I’m not missing work tomorrow,” he continued. “I wouldn’t miss work tomorrow (Friday, August 31, 2018). Tomorrow is the last business day of the pre-Labor Day to Election Day window.”

https://www.mediaite.com/tv/chuck-todd-warns-of-possible-mueller-bombshell-i-wouldnt-miss-work-tomorrow/

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Russian oligarch, Justice Department and a clear case of collusion

August 30, 2018

In a 20-month search for evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, none that is compelling has emerged.

Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress he found none. The U.S. intelligence community has given a similar assessment, though it did prove convincingly that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election through cyber warfare. And, so far, special counsel Robert Mueller has not offered any collusion evidence, though his work continues.

But, for the first time, I can say there is evidence of collusion between Russians and Americans — specifically, the sort that is at the heart of counterintelligence work.

Before we review that evidence, let’s define collusion. The Collins Dictionary says its original British meaning was “secret or illegal cooperation, especially between countries or organizations.” Using that definition, collusion can be secret but good, if the outcome is well-intended. Or, it can be bad, if it is meant to defraud, deceive or create illegality.

Opinion
By John Solomon

Now for the evidence, as presented to me by several sources, American and foreign:

In September 2015, senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr and some FBI agents met in New York with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to seek the Russian billionaire’s help on organized crime investigations. The meeting was facilitated — though not attended — by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.

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Oleg Deripaska

In 2012, Steele’s private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was hired as a subcontractor by a law firm working for Deripaska, who then headed Russia’s largest aluminum company. Steele’s firm was asked to do research to help the law firm defend a lawsuit filed against Deripaska by a business rival.

By 2015, Steele’s work had left him friendly with one of Deripaska’s lawyers, according to my sources. And when Ohr, then the associate deputy attorney general and a longtime acquaintance of Steele, sought help getting to meet Deripaska, Steele obliged.

Deripaska, who frequently has appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at high-profile meetings, never really dealt with Steele, but he followed his lawyer’s recommendations and met with Ohr, my sources say.

By that time, Deripaska already had proven himself helpful to the FBI. As I’ve written previously, based on numerous U.S. sources, he cooperated with the bureau from 2009 to 2011 and spent more than $25 million of his own money on an FBI-supervised operation to try to rescue retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was captured in Iran while working as a CIA contractor.

U.S. officials and Levinson’s family told me that Deripaska’s efforts came close to securing Levinson’s freedom before the State Department scuttled a deal. The former agent has never been heard from again.

The 2015 meeting between Ohr, the FBI and Deripaska is captured cryptically in some of Ohr’s handwritten notes, recently turned over to Congress.

People familiar with the meeting said U.S. officials posed some investigative theories about suspected Russian organized crime and cyber espionage activity, theories that Deripaska indicated he did not believe were accurate.

The sources stressed that the 2015 meeting had nothing to do with any allegation about Russian meddling in the upcoming 2016 election but, rather, was an “outreach” about other types of suspected activity overseas that concerned U.S. officials.

A year later, Deripaska would get another visit from his FBI friends in New York. But this time the questions were about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Specifically, the agents told Deripaska they believed Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was secretly coordinating the election with Moscow.

Steele had planted that theory with the FBI. By that time the former MI6 agent was working for the American opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee to find Russian dirt on Trump. Steele’s theories, of course, are contained in the so-called Steele dossier provided to the FBI.

Ohr had his own connection to Fusion, which was paying his wife, Nellie, to work on the anti-Trump research project, according to congressional testimony.

Deripaska once had a business relationship with Manafort, but it ended in lawsuits. Despite that acrimony, Deripaska told the agents in that September 2016 meeting that he thought the theory that Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the election was preposterous.

Deripaska — like the many foreign business figures to whom U.S. intelligence has turned for help over the decades — is not without controversy or need. The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations and claims FBI agents told him in 2009 that the State Department file blocking his entry to the country was merely a pretext.

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show.

We now know that, on multiple occasions during those visits, the DOJ and FBI secretly collaborated with Deripaska in the hope of getting help, first regarding Levinson, then on Ohr’s matters, and finally on the Manafort case. U.S. officials told me they assumed Deripaska let Putin’s team know he was helping the U.S. government and that his motive for helping was to keep visiting America.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election.

“The latest reckless media chatter proposes that I had some unspecified involvement in the so-called dossier. Like most of the absurd fantasies and smears that ricochet across the internet, it is utterly false. I had absolutely nothing to do with this project, and I never had any knowledge of it until it was reported in the media and I certainly wasn’t involved in any activity related to it,” Deripaska said in the statement his team provided me.

Americans can form their own conclusions about the veracity of those claims. But they now have a pretty convincing case of collusion between U.S. officials and Russians, one that isn’t necessarily all that harmful to the American interest.

And the tale of Ohr, Steele, Deripaska, the FBI and the DOJ is a cogent reminder that people looking for black-and-white answers on Russia are more likely to find lots of gray — the favorite color of the murky counterintelligence world.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

Includes video:

http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/404061-russian-oligarch-justice-department-and-a-clear-case-of-collusion

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Model claiming Trump secrets pleads not guilty in Thailand case

August 20, 2018

 

Belarusian model who sparked global intrigue after claiming she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of running an illegal “sex training” class in Thailand.

Anastasia Vashukevich, better known by her pen name Nastya Rybka, has been detained in Thailand since February when police raided a risque seminar in the seaside resort city of Pattaya.

Vashukevich had travelled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a onetime associate of Trump’s now-disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

© THAI NEWS PIX/AFP | Anastasia Vashukevich has been detained in Thailand since February when police raided a risque “sex training” seminar in the seaside resort city of Pattaya

She set off a scramble for details after she promised in an Instagram video to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” on claims the Kremlin aided the US President’s 2016 election victory.

No material has been released to substantiate her claims, and critics have accused her of a publicity stunt.

Vashukevich and her seven co-defendants arrived at the Pattaya court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing on the charges that include unlawful assembly and conspiracy.

Police initially charged the group with work permit violations but later alleged the seminar, led by self-styled Russian seduction guru Alex Kirillov and ostensibly a course training participants to be better lovers, was actually intended to arrange paid sex for participants.

Photos of course participants in detention after the February raid showed them wearing t-shirts that said “sex animator”.

Kirillov, who has served as a spokesperson for the mostly-Russian group because he speaks English, told the court that all eight defendants were pleading not guilty.

“We did not commit any crimes,” he said. “What we do is training on how to seduce men and women. We do not make any sexual activity.”

Vashukevich cried after the prosecutor showed a photo of several of her co-defendants hugging at a nightclub after a training session.

“Why was I arrested? Why am I here?” she said.

The next hearing has been set for August 27.

Pattaya, on Thailand’s southern coast, is a party town with a reputation for vice and a sizeable Russian expatriate community.

Both Washington and Moscow have publically shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described as “bizarre”.

Additional legal troubles are also awaiting Vashukevich and Kirillov back in Russia, where Deripaska won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the duo last month.

They were ordered to pay $8,000 each to Deripaska, who sued them after a video apparently filmed by Vashukevich surfaced which appeared to show the tycoon vacationing with Sergei Prikhodko, an influential Russian deputy prime minister at the time.

Kremlin-connected Deripaska and Manafort did business together in the mid-2000s, The New York Times reported last year, but their relationship broke down into legal wrangling.

Manafort is awaiting a verdict in his own trial on fraud and tax evasion charges in the US state of Virginia.

AFP